Monday, June 27, 2011

New Rent Law Passed - No Weakening, Slightly Stronger


The new hodge-podge bill including the rent law, (S5856/A8518) passed both houses of the the State Legislature and was signed into law by Governor Cuomo that evening, June 24, 2011.

This is the first renewal in many years that does not weaken the rent laws.
  • It renews the law for 4 years.
  • The law raises the rent level for de-regulation to $2,500 (from the current $2000) - so
    • in VACANT apartments, the rent must be at least $2500 before an owner can de-regulate it, and
    • in OCCUPIED apartments, the rent must be at least $25000 AND the household income must be at least $200,000 for two consecutive years
    before the owner can take it out of rent stabilization.
  • The law requires owners to file papers with Until now, it's been on the honor system and filing papers is not required - so no one really knows
    • how much money the landlord claims was put in to raise the rent to the de-regulation level, and
    • how many apartments are being de-regulated.
  • The law provides that in buildings with 35 or more units - like ours -  only 1/60th (not the current1/40th) of the cost of improvements to an individual apartment can be added permanently to the rent. This would affect both an occupied apartment (if the tenant gets a new stove from the owner, for example), and to a vacant apartment if the owner is trying to raise the rent to get it de-regulated. 
  • The law leaves the Roberts J-51 decision intact: It remains illegal for landlords to take apartments out of rent stabilization while receiving J-51 tax breaks over a period of years.

From Michael McKee of Tenants PAC and a leader of the Real Rent Reform Campaign:

S5856/A8518 passed both houses of the State Legislature on Friday evening, June 24, and was signed into law that evening by Governor Andrew Cuomo.

It is now known as Chapter 97 of the Laws of 2011.

This omnibus bill linked several related/unrelated issues, making it harder for members to vote no:
  • a 2 percent property tax cap for upstate and suburbs;
  • renewal and slight enhancements of the rent laws (and renewal of the coop laws without changes);
  • limited relief from unfunded mandates that the State has imposed on local governments; and
  • renewal and enhancement of the 421-a tax giveaway to developers of luxury housing.
This is why legislators describe this kind of end-of-session bill as "One Big Ugly." No one likes voting for parts of it.

The bill passed the Senate by a vote of 57 to 5, with five Democrats voting no: Ruben Diaz, Sr.; Adriano Espaillat; Shirley Huntley; Kevin Parker; and Bill Perkins.

The bill passed the Assembly by a vote of 120 to 15. Several suburban Democrats voted no, all citing their opposition to the property tax cap and the negative impact it will have on the public school system. Cathy Nolan of Queens made the same objection in voting no. Inez Barron of Brooklyn was the sole Assembly Member to cite the weak rent protections in the bill in explaining her negative vote. Several New York City Democrats complained that the bill was inadequate in terms of tenant protections and preservation of affordable housing, but voted yes.